India blog day 15

My planned visit to observe the 3 children I’ve been asked to assess was cancelled at the last moment owing to yet another tummy upset. However, I had previously seen them in school and at church, so I felt I had enough information to give the teachers some solid advice. I was recovered enough by lunchtime to go into school and did a really useful workshop with the teachers on how to write individual education plans for these children, with realistic, measurable targets that can be used to drive their learning forward.

I was telling them stuff they hadn’t heard about before, so I feel it may make a real difference, both now and to any future children with learning disabilities whom they may teach. As my trip draws nearer to its close I find myself hoping I can come back in a year or so and see what progress has been made.

Tonight we had visitors – a team of 7 from a church in Lincoln who have come out for half term week. They had dinner with us, and E and the girls cooked up a veritable feast.

One of the girls has come up to me twice today to tell me shyly, in broken English, that my testimony really touched her last night. The first time she said she doesn’t usually pray in bed at night but after listening to me she went to bed and prayed. The second time I couldn’t fully understand what she was trying to say, but she was clearly expressing that God had spoken to her through my story, and she ended with the words, “I am very happy.”

Praise God for all He has done this few weeks despite my illness, not least what He has done in my own heart.

India blog day 14

I’m going to end up uploading several blogs at once as internet access is currently in short supply, so I will keep this one brief. Church this morning was wonderful – inspiring worship, warm fellowship, challenging teaching. I’m feeling better every day now although I did find my legs were still too weak to stand all through the worship.

E and S were out for lunch and didn’t return until teatime, so I had the afternoon on my own with the girls and had some lovely conversation with a couple of them, the one whose English was better acting as interpreter for the other. She asked me what my favourite worship song is and I attempted to teach her the song I really love – Chris Bowater’s “Jesus shall take the highest honour”.

E and S returned with a surprise for me – they had arranged for an interpreter to come for the evening so that I could share my testimony with the girls. It was a real privilege to share the journey that God has brought me on since childhood until now, and to be able to testify to His amazing faithfulness through it all. I was able to both tell them and show them that no matter what life throws at us or how we falter, His grace is there to pick us up, and there are no hurts He can’t heal. As it says in Psalm 91, “His faithfulness (not mine!) will be my shield and bulwark.”

It was clear from the girls’ questions and comments afterwards that God had really spoken to some of them, and I think the Holy Spirit was at work in one or two hearts as they went off to bed.

India blog day 13

So bedtime came last night, and a new dilemma presented itself. Where was Moses the mouse? Was he in my room (in which case I should leave the door open to let him out)? Or was he in the living room (in which case I should shut my door to keep him from getting in)? In the end I shut the door, on the chance that if he was in my room my snoring would terrify him into keeping right away from me. The reality is he’s probably been here, unseen, all along, and I will probably not see him again, even though he’ll still be here.

This morning a miracle happened – I woke up hungry. I actually woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to be spiritual and got my Bible out to meditate on Psalm 62, but the next thing I knew I was waking up several hours later and hungry. So although my appetite is small, I’m back to eating normal food again. After feeling so very grim it’s wonderful to be feeling normal again, and makes me realise how much I take my health for granted.

I did my treasure hunt with the girls. After a couple of false starts while they grappled with the rules, they soon got the hang of it with much jostling and laughter, and found the hidden treasure, a packet of Werther’s Originals.

After this we all sat in a circle on the floor and played a riotous game in which a colourful scarf represented a thief and a grey scarf represented a policeman. Starting at opposite sides of the circle, but both moving clockwise, the scarves passed from person to person. If you received the thief scarf you had to put it on, tie two knots in it, untie it and pass it on. If you received the policeman scarf, you had to put it on, tie one knot in it, untie it and pass it on. As the “policeman” chased the “thief” around the circle, the gap gradually narrowed. If the policeman landed on you while you still had the thief, you were out, and the game went on without you. The shrieks of hilarity must have been heard halfway round the block.

Then the girls put on a dance for me, with genuine joy on their faces, and given their traumatic histories, it was a thrill beyond words because as I sat watching them, I was sitting opposite a wall hanging which bears the words, “You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Truly these girls are living epistles. They are at various stages on their journey to God, but some can give very clear testimonies of how He has transformed their lives, and one writes beautiful worship songs.

After this I was sitting doing some work on my laptop and 3 of the girls, having secretly decided to give me a fashion show, appeared before me in their loveliest saris. They really did look beautiful. This was the point at which I discovered that for the cheap camera I picked up the day before I left home, I had brought the wrong batteries. So E took some pictures for me on her camera and is going to send them to me.

India blog – day 12

It’s about time I updated everyone again. The past week I have been mostly out of it, either sleeping or drinking or – the rest you don’t want to know about and I’m trying to forget.

However, I woke up this morning with no body pain or headache for the first time since last Friday, and I have been able to keep down two bananas and a little bread and butter. So progress is being made. And yes, Martin, I’ve even swallowed the papaya leaf juice!

When I first became sick I had romantic notions of communing with God upon a bed of sickness. The reality has been rather more prosaic. I’ve just been completely out of it for most of the time. I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of the people I’m with who have cared for my every need, and I’ve certainly met God in them.

I’m hoping tomorrow to be well enough to do an activity I’ve planned for the girls here, and which I had intended to do last Saturday. I was asked to do something to help them with their English. I’ve prepared a treasure hunt with numbered clues in English and a bag of sweets at the end of it.

Today’s bit of derring-do: I encountered a cockroach in the bathroom in the middle of the night, so I took my courage in both hands and squished it. That was as far as my courage ran; I couldn’t quite bring myself to deal with the corpse. However, the next time I visited the loo, the late lamented creature was swarming with ants, so I had no choice but to grab some loo roll, scoop up the corpse, ants and all, and flush the lot down the pan.

Today’s bit of excitement: I was sitting on the edge of my bed with a drink in one hand and a banana in the other when a mouse suddenly ran out between my feet and made me nearly jump out of my skin. I hastily decamped to the living room to sit with my feet up on the sofa only to find that the little blighter had beaten me to it and was running past the end of the sofa with a grin on its face.

As for the lack of dog poo, the stray dogs may not leave evidence of any, but the kept ones do. The landlord thinks nothing of letting his leave piles outside our front door for everyone to step over when we leave or enter the apartment.

Tonight I’m watching a DVD with the girls – the story of William Carey in Hindi with English subtitles, a timely reminder to pray for my brother who flew somewhere over my head yesterday at the start of another trip with Carey Outreach Mission.

India blog day 8

I haven’t updated this blog for a few days. On Friday night I was struck down with a bug, with a very high fever, and I slept solidly round to Sunday with some pretty weird dreams in my fevered state. My hosts gave me medication to help control the fever, but I couldn’t keep it down so it didn’t do anything.

I dragged myself out of bed to church because I’m a firm believer that when you’re sick there’s healing in the body of Christ, so that’s where you need to be. But I’m sorry to confess that I slept through almost the entire proceedings.

Last night they took me to Saket City Hospital where I was given IV fluids and a drip containing dextrose and vitamins for energy. I was impressed with the excellent treatment. After some blood tests I was sent home with appropriate medication.

The rehydration had brought my temperature down, and I began to be able to keep the medication down. Several people have told me that the key to recovery from this bug is rest so I’m trying to be sensible. In my mind, rest included sitting with my feet up preparing material for the sessions I have to take, but I find that the stonking headache that goes with this illness is not conducive to staring at a computer screen. (For that reason this blog will be short and subsequent ones may not be so frequent.)

Well. I wasn’t supposed to be ill on this trip. So I’m not sure why I am, except that maybe God is giving me some time to spend renewing and deepening my fellowship with Him. One thing I have learned over the years: even when life doesn’t go to plan, God is faithful and can be trusted.

I did manage to go to the school and do some autism training with the teachers this afternoon, thanks to S giving me lifts both ways as I don’t think I could have walked. One of the teachers remarked that she had observed an autistic young man in their community behaving in all the ways I described, but now she would understand more why he did it, and what was behind his behaviour.

I came home and slept for two hours, then got up and wrote this, and that’s it. Next blog post as and when I feel up to it.

India blog – day 5

I woke up this morning with the ankle feeling much better, but still not able to put a great deal of weight on it. However, as the day has gone on it has improved significantly, and although it’s now swollen and a variety of shades of blue and purple, it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as it looks, and I was able to walk home from school this afternoon without difficulty or pain. God is faithful!

Since I wasn’t really up to walking to school this morning, I stayed home and worked on a training session on report writing. When I finished that, I was able to shut myself away and have some much needed time alone with God. I rather hit the ground running when I got here, and apart from snatched moments of being consciously present to God during the day, and about 15 minutes at the start and end of each day, I have been “doing” rather than just “being” since I got here. So I shut myself away with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10.38 onwards and just reorientated myself towards God. It felt like an oasis, and maybe it took a sprained ankle for me to slow down enough for God to get my attention.

This afternoon I went to the school in the apartment block, and again I take my hat off to the teachers there. None of them has had any teacher training, so they have missed out on all the tips, shortcuts and behaviour management strategies that trained teachers are taught at college. I think they do as well as any teacher, but they have to work twice as hard at it. The head teacher has been up late all week setting exam papers, or typing up ones written by her teachers.

I spent the afternoon with the girls doing more of the embroidery that you’re all going to come and buy on November 29th. Despite their traumatic backgrounds, and although many of them have a long way to go yet, it’s clear that the home here is a place where real healing takes place at a steady pace. The only sounds as we sat sewing were the inevitable giggling and the sweet singing of Hindi songs.

I’m writing this tonight after our afternoon chai and before dinner, but after the meal, as it’s a Friday, instead of studying until bedtime they’re going to watch an inspirational movie. I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of my first week here. The time is flying past, and I think I’m definitely going to have to come back again in the future!

India blog – day 4

Before I came away, Paul Matthews (from Udaipur) prophesied over me that I wouldn’t have any kind of sickness while I was in India. So I have faith in God and in His prophets, and I receive that word. So it was not in the plan when Delhi belly struck last night. But I had just come hot-foot from a teaching session at church in which (besides the quantum stuff) the speaker had spoken about the Shunammite woman who, even when the worst of disasters struck, would only say, “It is well” and didn’t make any negative confession.

So I retained my faith in Paul’s prophecy and confessed “It is well”, and it turned out to be the shortest-lived gastric upset I’ve ever had, I’ve been fine all day today.

Then on my way to see the project leaders this morning, I stepped of the kerb, my ankle went right over and I’ve been hobbling round on a very swollen ankle all day. I was given a bandage to strap it up, and once or twice today I’ve had to use autorickshaws because I couldn’t manage the walk, but if anyone asks me how it is, my reply is “It is well”, and I’m expecting to see a significant improvement in the morning. I intend to be able to come home with Paul’s prophecy fulfilled.

This morning I sat down with the project leaders and worked out a plan for exactly what I’m going to be doing – autism training with the teachers this Monday, and training on diagnosing learning disabilities and writing SMART IEPs to improve and track learning the following Monday. Training for all the staff on report writing, and towards the end of my stay a creative writing workshop with the church on writing for worship. This is in addition to classroom observation of the children I saw on Tuesday and an English lesson.

This afternoon I helped to man a stall selling crafts made at the various projects. Trade had been reasonably steady in the morning before I arrived, but in the afternoon it was practically dead. This was partly because a lot of Americans were expected, but the American School held its parent-teacher appointments this afternoon, so they all went to that instead. These sales involve a huge amount of work for the staff concerned – not only making and selling the items, but they are stored in boxes on the upper floors of apartment blocks and it takes a lot of effort to bring them all down and load the cars, and put them all away afterwards. So I was disappointed to see so much effort for a relatively small return. There is another such sale on Sunday evening, so please pray for a much better turn out, and punters willing to put their hands in their pockets.

I still keep being asked if I’m shocked, and the answer’s still no, not really. I’m starting to feel a bit guilty, as if it’s callous of me not to feel shocked. I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that my parents worked all their lives for organisations that cared for the world’s poorest in far flung places, and I grew up accustomed to harrowing pictures and stories and was taught to pray about them from an early age. I don’t think it has made me inured to it, exactly, because my compassion is still in tact. I’ve also seen Ellen go through some pretty extreme suffering behind the doors of a hospital room. I hope it hasn’t so much made my heart hard as put some mettle into my backbone. I can certainly say that I’ve fallen in love with the children and young ladies I’ve met here.